Runner’s knee is a general term for knee pain felt around the knee-cap. Physiotherapists often refer to runner’s knee as “Patellofemoral Joint Syndrome” or “Patellofemoral pain”. The patellofemoral joint is composed of the kneecap (patella) and the thigh bone (femur).
The patella should fit snugly into a groove on the femur and track within this groove when the knee bends. However when the patella does not track normally through the groove it can rub against the femur and put stress on surrounding structures which may result in knee pain, joint irritation and eventually degeneration of the patella joint surface.
Patellofemoral pain affect 25% of the population at some time in their lives but it is more common in athletes. It is often seen in sports that involve running, jumping and landing, or squatting (eg. long distance running, tennis, netball, football, volleyball, basketball and skiing). Weight bearing activities with increased bending such as running up and down hills or stairs tend to exacerbate the pain.
The most common causes of patella misalignment are muscle imbalances and poor biomechanical control.
- Muscular imbalances around the knee can alter the tracking of the patella. Tightness and/or weakness results in the patella being pulled more to one side when the knee bends. Common reasons for weakness include knee injury, post-surgery, swelling or disuse.
- Biomechanical factors including the position of the pelvis, knee and ankle are also important in determining the forces acting on the patella. Poor foot posture (eg. flat feet) and weak hip stabilising muscles can both allow increased twisting of the knee and result in a deviation of the patella.
The onset of knee pain is normally gradual rather than traumatic.
- Normally noticed during weight bearing or jarring activities that involve knee bending.
- Using stairs, squatting, kneeling, hopping or running are commonly painful.
- As the patellofemoral pain syndrome progresses there may be knee pain while walking and even at rest.
- There may be knee pain when the knee is sustained in a bent position sitting
Researchers have confirmed that sports physiotherapy is a very effective short and long-term solution for patellofemoral pain. So, if you are having knee pain contact one of our physiotherapists to get a thorough assessment and treatment.